Try as they might Yahoo is having a tough time convincing people that it’s still “in search.” On Yahoo’s earnings call earlier this week CFO Tim Morse, who led the call because CEO Carol Bartz was ill, used her analogy to describe Yahoo’s new way of positioning itself around search:
The next revolution isn’t with the algorithms that provide results, it’s in creating a better, more personally relevant search experience. This is where we’ll differentiate ourselves and compete vigorously without the billions required to keep up in the arms race that generating search results has become.
Let me give you an analogy that Carol has been using to explain this point. Consider basic search to be an Intel chip. An Intel chip is used in Dells, HPs and Macs to provide the computation needed to operate them but the differentiation between these products isn’t at the chip level, it’s in the different user experiences that are provided on top of them. It’s the same for us in search. We’ll innovate on top of the results that are provided to us by Microsoft.
While a clever way to discuss Yahoo’s new role, vis-a-vis Bing (the algo “chip”) it doesn’t seem to be convincing many industry insiders.
Yesterday at the Web2.0 event in San Francisco Google co-founder Sergey Brin made a “surprise” visit and talked about a range of things. Dow Jones newswires captured some of the discussion. Specifically Brin lamented the “abdication” of search by Yahoo. Here’s TechCrunch’s version of the relevant part of the exchange between Brin and interviewer John Battelle:
JB: Do you like Bing? You a Bing users?
SB: I use all search engines out there. Bing reminds us that search is a competitive market. There’s Powerset that Microsoft bought. There’s Cuil. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on. It’s a shame Yahoo is abdicating.
JB: They would say they’re not.
SB: Sorry that was my impression.
JB: Do you have a comment on Microsoft/Yahoo search deal?
SB: I shouldn’t comment on that. But Yahoo had some interesting things, they should stick with it.
The Cuil folks should be pleased that Brin gave them a shout out.